Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Well Worn $20.




The $20 dollar bill was well worn and had the look of being freshly laundered. Its days of inflicting paper cuts were over and it was just a matter of time before the Mint got to it and exchanged it for a cuter, younger bill. I balled it up and put it in my pocket next to other bills in the same condition.

At the register, I paid for the meal with my credit card, like I had done the 50 or so times before. I had the Petaluma omelet (chicken apple sausage, spinach, mozzarella, mushrooms and salsa) with a Diet Coke; Wolfie had the usual: sesame bagel with cream cheese and milk. Neither of us had deviated in our breakfast choices in 5 years or when he moved into solid foods.

Waiting for the clerk to return with the Diet Pepsi and milk, I rummaged through my pocket searching for a tip. I pulled out a faded dollar and made sure the clerk see me put it into the tip jar. I don’t know why I waited, but everybody does. The clerk’s eyes brightened and he responded, “Thank you very much, Sir. Thank you.” The response was excessive for a dollar tip and made me a little embarrassed.

Wolfie and I walked upstairs and took our regular seat overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. It was early and only a quarter full with small families and early rising college students. Before sitting down, I thought about the clerk’s response. It didn’t make sense. It was only a dollar and didn’t warrant so much enthusiasm. Did I tip $20 dollars?

I checked my pockets and there was no badly worn $20 dollar bill. I checked again and then pilfered my wallet. There was a $20 in the wallet, badly worn, but I wasn’t sure if it was the $20 I was looking for. I sat and ate breakfast, with my mind on the $20 and my $20 on my mind.

On our way out, I stopped at the counter, under the guise of asking for water, even though I was aware that a pitcher of water was available next to the utensil counter. While asking for water, I peered into the stainless steel vase that doubled as a tip jar. Alternating between looking at the clerk and the vase, I visually searched for any sign of a 2 or a 0. I didn’t see either.

Leaving the restaurant I accepted that I either lost a 20 dollar bill...or I didn’t. I convinced myself I didn’t.

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